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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


When I look back at the blog, I see I have written four separate posts on Horizontal Channels. The first post explains how to make the apparatus.  The second post featured many different types of operations children create at this apparatus.  The third  post highlighted how play can be infectious around this apparatus.  The fourth post talked about the type of spatial literacy children experience while playing in and around this apparatus.

This fall I made another version of this apparatus.  The box I used was not big enough to cover the top of the table so I had to add an additional channel.  To connect the extra channel, I duct taped it to the original and made a cutout so the corn could be pushed into the main section and down the ramp.  I kept the end of the extra channel for strength and to create an additional obstacle for the children to work around as they moved the corn.  I also made the ramp larger. Because of that, I could not use the usual tub at the end of the ramp because the sides were too high.  I settled on an actual box.
There is another difference from past versions: the channel sizes vary from skinny to wide. What that meant was that only the narrow vehicles fit in the narrow channels.

The narrower channels, though, opened up new possibilities for play.  The narrow channels became a platform above the channels on which to operate.  And the children certainly took advantage of that.

I mentioned that the ramp was larger for this version of the channel apparatus.  The corn and pellets have always made plenty of noise going down the ramp, but the large ramp amplifies the sound.  Watch and listen!

The Sound of Corn from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

The longer ramp also seemed to encourage more exploration from the bottom box.  Of course, this box does not have very high sides, so it is easy to step into.

The child on the left is feeling the corn as another child is pouring it down the ramp.  The child on the right has taken up residence in the box driving the dump truck up and down the ramp.

Getting back to the channels, one of the operations the children usually create is to bury objects. In the picture below, the children have buried the green front loader---you can just see the top.
It is possible to bury objects because the walls of the channels hold in at least two sides of the medium.  In the case of the green front loader, it is three sides because the children have utilized the end of the channel.

I have said before that this apparatus really encourages a specific type of spatial exploration.  The flat horizontal channels encourage a straight, lateral motion.  Watch how well that is illustrated by the clip below.  The child "surfs" with his truck from one end of the channel to the other all the way to the bottom of the box.

Surfing the Channel from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

When it comes to cardboard, there may be a general blueprint in my head for an apparatus, but I will rarely make the exact same apparatus a second time.  That is partly because cardboard boxes are so varied in size and shape.  If I were to search for boxes with exact dimensions from a previous version, I could spend too much time searching which takes away time for building. Besides, children are masters at exploring spaces.  Children are masters at making the spaces their own. The more varied those spaces, the more play and exploration.

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